Port Arthur, USA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory places Jefferson County (TX) among the very worst in the nation for air releases of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders. In a state that regularly records in excess of 2,500 toxic emissions events per year, Port Arthur is near the top of the list of offending sites.


Photo: Eugene Richards

The [oil] industry abides by the letter of the law, dutifully documenting thousands of emissions events, knowing that, in the end, practically no one cares. Refinery spokespeople acknowledge that their facilities are emitting toxic chemicals. But they follow up that acknowledgment with a question: are we, as automobile drivers, willing to help offset the industry costs associated with increasing safety and reducing emissions every time we go to the pump?

We–collectively–have admitted that we’re not. So these same spokespeople don’t even bother contesting the findings of this cancer researcher or challenging the EPA’s warnings about that contamination.

Port Arthur’s gravity is somehow pulling all of us in. From the Gulf of Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, the whole country has been stitched together by pipelines filled with toxic materials extracted from offshore platforms in Prudhoe Bay, from the tar sands of Alberta, from the fracking fields of North Dakota. Drilled, and spilled, and shipped overseas.

The endangered Alaskan coast is Port Arthur now. So is the benzene-laced Kalamazoo River. So is Mayflower, Arkansas, where an Exxon-Mobil pipeline burst earlier this year and dumped as much as 7,000 barrels of heavy crude onto the lanes and front lawns of a quiet suburban community. The Louisiana shoreline, striated with spilled oil and the dispersant chemicals used to dissolve it, and the river valleys and open plains overlying the Marcellus and Bakken shale formations where fracking rigs have appeared by the thousands: they’re Port Arthur, too.

These aren’t my words. They are words I’ve stitched together from an article in OnEarth, one I felt worth sharing, even though it’s nothing new, nothing new. I hope one day we all, myself included, wake up.

To read Ted Genoways’ entire article, “The End of the Line,” please click HERE.


7 thoughts on “Port Arthur, USA

  1. Ugh. I was just talking with my husband about the way man has destroyed the Earth and continues to do so with such little regard. This is more of the same (I read an article about the testing of bees to determine the cause for their colony collapse, and it’s far worse than feared. Instead of “one” pesticide/chemical killing them, DOZENS of chemicals showed up – and you know the government won’t rock the boat with big business and force them to stop using these “wonder chemicals” that do away with natural pests and pollinators). Same thing: no one will rock the boat with the great oil magnates either. OMG… if I think about it too much, I become ill. The bees and the oil lines — it’s all the same thing isn’t it? Turn a blind eye until it’s too late and we’re walking around scratching our heads and saying, “Gee… I don’t understand how this happened.”

    Ha … you obviously struck a nerve (and I know all about the fracking industry – and what it’s done to my rural hometown in PA).

    • It IS all the same. And I don’t get it — well, I do, I guess, but it still stuns me. If we spent our money on investing in green energy, we’d still be creating jobs. Why do our state and nat’l governments let big industry have so much power? It is so disheartening.

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